Written by Walter Grio.
Majoring in Communications and Theater, Beth Doane did not initially set out to become an active environmentalist.
But after launching her first company at age 22, she soon learned about the destructive impact that the fashion industry makes to the earth’s natural resources as well as the various human rights violations that persist. As a naturally gifted entrepreneur, she wanted to make a difference and do something about it.
In 2008, Beth founded RainTees, a fashion company that donates school supplies to children around the world and features their artwork on RainTee clothes and accessories. In addition, for every RainTee sold, a tree is planted in a critically endangered rainforest. To date, they have planted more than 30,000 trees and helped provide an education for youth in over 28 countries.
Beth’s work has been featured in Glamour, National Geographic, People, WWD, and other major fashion and news publications. An eloquent and inspiring speaker, she has captivated audiences at TEDx, the United Nations, Google, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., universities, and many other places.
There’s no doubt that she is making an indelible impact — and in this case, it’s an impact that in more ways than one — is good for the environment.
How did the RainTees idea come to life?
I was 22 when I created Andira International and imported exclusive European apparel and accessories brands across the U.S. For many girls this may sound like a dream job, but I was pretty miserable. I saw the reality of child labor and human rights violations and was devastated by what people are willing to do for profit. I also saw how toxic manufacturing can be for our planet and how chemicals used in the production process are poisoning our water and food supply. I knew there had to be a better way to make fashion and had the vision to create RainTees, in 2008. I had no experience in apparel design or retail and it was really a huge leap of faith. I risked losing everything I had worked for with my company to follow a completely new concept of creating fashion ethically and sustainably while also using children’s art and it was extremely challenging. I worked with a very small team of designers in the beginning and then grew our giving programs one country at a time. Today we are active in over 28 different countries around the world and we have been able to really make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and families.
How has RainTees changed you?
RainTees taught me the power of giving and the power of hope. One of the hardest things for me when I started my new company was I found myself listening to people telling me I would never make it. They told me the economy was failing, I did not have enough money, I didn’t have enough experience, and consumers didn’t care how or where their clothes were made. In many ways people were right, but that didn’t stop me from believing that maybe I could still do something. I definitely heard all the negativity around me, but I chose to listen to my heart instead. Because of that I have been able to stay focused on creating change through my company and have seen people’s lives changed, families break the cycle of poverty, able to survive off their land, and their children attend school for the first time. I may have started with a fashion company, but today I am much more passionate about designing new ways to give hope where it’s needed most.
When did you launch and what has been the response?
We launched in 2008 at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week LA, are now sold internationally, and have a growing celebrity following. We get asked a lot how individuals can donate to the children we work with or join us on a giving trip and we provide a list of things people can do to get involved on our website at www.raintees.com
What’s next for RainTees?
We are in the process of launching a new line and are expanding our giving programs like our pen pal program which matches our fans with children in developing nations to share ideas, encouragement, and emotional support. We are also reforesting a large area in Madagascar which is a new planting site for us in 2013.
What inspires you to do what you do and what inspires you to keep doing it?
I have been in love with nature since I was a little girl and as I continue to see the planet destroyed and peoples lives shattered, I am more empowered than ever to remind people that we can change the world in thousands of ways and that every single one of us can make a difference.
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